The ACC Coastal has been a portrait of chaos over the last seven years, as every team in the division has won a division title once in that span. Despite that, preseason predictions have rarely strayed from the familiar refrain that it’s going to be Virginia Tech or Miami’s year. This year will be no different than any other year.
The 2020 Coastal winner will be ________— ACC Network (@accnetwork) May 6, 2020
*friendly reminder that over the last seven years, all seven teams have won the division. pic.twitter.com/tbRUjQpuXv
This year, the favorite to win the ACC Coastal is Virginia Tech, according to ESPN, which places the Hokies’ odds of winning the division at 49 percent based on its Football Power Index. Their status as a firm favorite is something of a surprise, as they were in decline for the three years leading up to 2019 and only managed eight wins last season, putting the team on par with Pitt. The program also hit a pothole on the recruiting trail, as its 2020 class ranks 74th in the nation, according to 247Sports. And while its previous three classes ranked in the top 30, several members of those classes transferred out of Blacksburg during the exodus that followed the team’s 6-7 campaign in 2018.
Behind Virginia Tech with surprising 34 percent odds to win the division is North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ sunny outlook appears to be a byproduct of strong recruiting, as the program has reeled in top-30 classes every year since 2016. With that said, it has underachieved with those classes, averaging five wins per season over that span and maxing out at eight wins in 2016. Over that same span, the team has gone 11-21 against ACC Coastal opponents, finishing at the bottom of the division twice and never cracking the top two of the division.
Miami has the third-highest odds of winning the ACC Coastal at 5 percent, and like North Carolina, the strangely positive perception of the program appears to be a result of good recruiting. The Hurricanes have had the ACC Coastal’s top recruiting class in four of the last five years, and three of those classes have ranked among the top 15 in the nation. However, there may not be a program in the nation that has done less with more than Miami, as the team lost to Louisiana Tech and Florida International en route to a 6-7 record in 2019. That followed a 7-6 showing in 2018, so 5 percent odds may be too generous.
Pitt is given the fourth-best odds of winning the division at 4 percent, but the team is tied with Duke and a Georgia Tech team that went 3-9 in its last campaign. While Pitt is far from a lock to win the division, it should at least be in better standing than 2019’s last-place finisher, especially since it returns several star defenders who could have gone pro in addition to a senior quarterback coming off a rare 3,000-yard season. The team will also have its softest non-conference schedule in years, as its series with UCF and Penn State are both over, leading some to believe that the team has a chance to break through the eight-win ceiling it has been confined to for the last decade.
And bringing up the rear with a 1 percent chance at a title is Virginia, the ACC Coastal’s defending champion. The Cavaliers’ narrow odds are likely the result of the team losing stars like Bryce Perkins and Bryce Hall to the pros. But given that the team has improved annually under Bronco Mendenhall since 2017 and the coach has posted just two losing seasons in a 15-year career, a fall from grace resulting in the team having virtually no shot at defending its title seems unlikely.
Time will tell how these odds will age, but based on the way things have played out in the ACC Coastal on and off the field over the last year or two, it seems as if ESPN’s optimism in Virginia Tech and North Carolina may be misplaced. And it seems Pitt will be overlooked despite decent results in 2019 and a defense that should rank among the nation’s best.